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UK – Insight into AWR challenges

26 January 2012

The latest AWR (Agency Workers’ Regulations) Monitor published by the British Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) provides an insight into the impact of the new regulations.

As previously reported, there has been only a slight decrease in temp billings which is “most likely linked to the economy than to any impact of the AWR.” While it is still quite early to be confident that the AWR will not dent demand, early indications do not support the meltdown predicted by some commentators.

The AWR Monitor reports that, while full equal treatment measures kicked in over the Christmas period, this did not result in any significant flurry of queries and requests for information from workers. However, recruiters have flagged concerns over the fact that some clients remain reluctant to share relevant information.

The main queries from staffing agencies to the REC Legal Helpline have focused on holiday pay, calculating basic pay as an hourly rate and putting agency workers back on a contract for services from Regulation 10 contracts. Other common queries are around the status of limited company contractors, calculating the 12 weeks qualifying period and defining a ‘substantially different role’.

Commenting on the latest data and feedback from its members, Tom Hadley, REC’s Director of Policy and Professional Services said, “It is now over 100 days since the AWR came into force. Despite the slight dip in the number of placements highlighted in last month’s Report on Jobs, overall demand remains strong. Temporary and contract staff will continue to provide employers with a key means of bringing in the right skills at the right time.”

“The feedback from recruiters is mixed and varies from sector to sector. There is no doubt that the regulations have created significant cost and resourcing implications for the industry but the priority has been to reassure client organisations over the ongoing viability and benefits of using agency staff."

The AWD Monitor reveals some of the challenges staffing companies have faced in more detail. Anecdotal feedback includes:

“We have now dealt with a number of temps under AWR and whilst time consuming because each company has different terms and conditions it is getting more straightforward with each one we do."

“We did our best to educate the clients before it came in and most clients have generally been co-operative.”

“OK so far, there is more paperwork to deal with, but we have put systems in place to ease the burden on Account Managers.”

“One client is not happy about paying a very well paid temp for the extra holiday they will be entitled to under AWR, he considers the temp to be overpaid for what they do.”

“Some employers are still under the impression that the regulations are nothing to do with them and this is just up to the agency to sort things out."

“One challenge has been the fact that employers have very different working patterns. Ensuring that the way AWR is implemented reflects these differences has been a big task.”

“The AWR has shaken the ‘issues tree’ for clients and has led to many clients reviewing a number of broad areas linked to the supply of temporary and contract staff.”

The AWR was implemented in the UK on 1 October 2011 to provide temporary workers with equal treatment in terms of basic working and employment conditions as those of permanent employees.  

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